To mark Josh Brookes' return to the Isle of Man TT this year, Bikesportnews will chart the highs, lows, trials and tribulations from the Aussie himself. Check out part three here...
After having a bit of a reset on Wednesday, Thursday evening was a good session with two sets of two laps completed.
I had a good opening lap, 129 something, and was hoping to go a bit quicker on the second lap but smelt a bit of oil and paranoia kicked in!
I looked behind a couple of times to see if there was any smoke, but the bike was fine, so I pitted at the end of the lap just to check everything and with a click on the suspension, headed back out.
The bike was pretty much the same for the entire four laps and is in the range of where it needs to be, so I’m focusing on myself now. The final lap felt pretty good, and I got into a nice rhythm, so it was mentally another step forward.
It was more enjoyable and although it might sound a bit odd, the quicker I go, the safer I feel. Everything feels more under control on track and you’re making the decisions on where the bike needs to be on the track, not the other way round.
You’re the one putting the bike in position and with a better feel, you have a much clearer mindset and approaching the corners, jumps and bumps how you need to. Like I say, the bike’s in the range now and we’re only making small refinements. Wednesday felt good and Thursday felt better so I’m not playing around with the settings too much. I’m focusing on getting more out of myself rather than the bike.
When you watch the TV footage of Pete, Dean and Michael, it looks like they’re on the ragged edge whereas I look like I’m out for a Sunday ride.
"I'm still riding with a healthy safety margin"
I can understand mentally and correlate with what they’re doing but I can’t extend myself to that level at this stage. I’m still riding with a healthy safety margin which is necessary and the right thing to do at the moment.
Friday night saw me go out on the Twin first and, again, the speeds improved. It’s funny that it’s called the Lightweight class as it makes you think the bikes are light when the reality is that they’re pretty similar to a Supersport bike.
Now that the speeds have picked up, I’m anticipating that there may be some work to do with the bike with the set-up just to make it that little bit better.
I’m pretty happy overall though and as I’m improving on the big bike, I’m improving on the Twin too. Michael’s speeds on the Paton are pretty impressive, but the bike might not last two races!
There are little areas where I can improve with both bikes and I’m a victim of my surroundings in a way in that it’s taken me a week to get up to speed. Friday’s sessions were a bit closer to the speeds I want to be doing but maybe I’m a little bit limited in how much I can improve the bikes. Five years away is quite a while but that’s just the way it is and there’s no point in dwelling on it. I’ll just keep chipping away.
That’s what I’ve been doing with the big bike and on Friday I played around a bit more with the tyres in terms of the soft and medium option. The short circuit mentality tells you soft is always best, but the conventional rule of thumb doesn’t seem to apply on the roads. I’ve done back-to-back laps with both tyres now and I feel like the medium is more comfortable. The bike’s more predictable whilst the soft isn’t giving as much grip.
I did a 129 at the beginning of the session but finished with the medium and did a 131mph lap with it. The feeling from the bike and the lap speed both suggest the medium is the better combination and the way to go.
It’s strange but the sensation of speed on a 131mph lap is the same as a 126mph lap. The fear, speed and risk feel the same but because the bike’s more refined, I’m feeling more comfortable and so able to go quicker. As practice week progresses, you’re more acclimatised to the track environment and you’re constantly honing your skills so the track ‘slows’ down.
I was happy to finish qualifying with a 131mph lap and although it’s hard to set targets at the TT, I’d say I’m where I anticipated to be at this point particularly when I look at what other people have done in previous years. As riders, we’re all finding our way through the same hurdles and I’m not far off my PB from 2018, which was set on the last lap of the race. Bettering that is what I want to do come the races.
We also had the trip to meet the Mayor on Thursday and it’s positive to engage with the local community whoever they are. As riders we’re selfish – we tend to practice, race, and then bugger off home – but the reality is that a lot of people are involved in creating the circumstances that allow us to race and it’s easy to forget that. It’s a big operation controlling the course – what they do in race control is phenomenal – and controlling the island so there’s a large amount of people we need to thank.